PD in Your PJs!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018 No comments

We are so excited to be invited by the Arkansas Reading Association to take part in their first online literacy conference. It wasn't hard to accept the invite, especially when they introduced the conference as a way to get PD in your PJs. Yes, please!

ARA 2014. Suz is the tall one. 
It's a first for us too! While we've had the pleasure to present at ARA's conference in 2014, we've never had the opportunity to host a webinar session. We're happy to join our friends in Arkansas in an online setting!

You're invited to join us on Saturday, February 3rd for the ARA's Online Literacy Conference. And the best news is...you don't have to be from Arkansas to take part! We'll be logging in and learning from the great state of Texas, sharing our poetry analysis strategy--WWAM!

Use the information above to register. Join us and some other truly great minds for an afternoon of learning in the comfort of your own home. Plus, we'll be giving away one of our Shared Reading sets. 

Y'all...PJs. Come on. It's better than a jeans day!

Sorting It All Out

Thursday, January 11, 2018 No comments
from your Curly pal, Lori

Welcome to your spring semester, friends! It's that time of year where things are new again. We've tidied our spaces, freshened up our seating charts, sharpened pencils, and cleaned out that drawer we promised ourselves we wouldn't junk up again. How ya doin' on that one, homie?
Inference Sort with Answer Page
In interventions, doing the activity with no answer page
allows kids to practice w/o penalty

It's also the time of year where we begin to kick our interventions into high gear. Without asking you to sift through mounds of data, I'm excited to share a great strategy with you that works well in your regular instruction or in an intervention setting. Most students who struggle in reading struggle with inferencing. It's not difficult to pull that idea from any of your data, regardless of the genre.

At my school and across multiple grade levels, we are huge fans of INFERENCE SORTS. This strategy is simple enough and can be used cross-genre with very low prep and a high impact on student learning. 

I'll tell you how to make one, but you can also click here to get your own copy of a sort that I've made for an expository text. If you want to use this particular one you'll need the text titled "The Spider Man Behind Spider-Man" by Bijal P. Trivedi. (When you click the link, it should ask if you want to make a copy. Click YES. Then it's all yours.)

Here's how to prep for an inference sort:
  • To begin, take any text of any length. A shorter text works better for an intervention where you would likely have less time than a regular instructional block. 
    • Or...use this as a pre-teaching strategy for a difficult text that you know readers may struggle with in regular instruction. Help give them a leg up on the next day's learning!
  • From that text, write several inferences that can be supported with details from the text. If you are a Texas teacher, use your STAAR stems for that particular genre and write statements the way they might actually be tested. 
  • In addition, write several statements that sound like inferences but actually cannot be supported in the text. 
  • Cut all of the statements into strips, and that's it!
Hand it over to kids:
  • Let students know that they will practice finding accurate support for inferences in a text. Sometimes, with kids who need intervention, this is half the battle. They need LOTS of practice supporting their ideas with evidence from the text. Also, you're welcome...I just wrote your objective for you!
  • Guide students through the text using an appropriate annotation strategy.
  • In pairs or small groups, ask students to sort the strips.
  • Anything that goes in the INFERENCE pile must be discussed and students should point to a place (or places) in the text that supports it. 
  • To close out your lesson, hand students a blank strip. Provide them with a detail from the text that small groups have not discussed, and ask them to write their own inference. 
We've done inference sorts with expository, fiction, and even poetry! It helps kids who don't read well the first time, who struggle to generate their own inferences as they read, and who really don't like to re-enter the text a second time. 

If you try my inference sort or one of your own, I'd love to hear how it goes! 

A Party Minus the Slumber

Tuesday, January 9, 2018 No comments
your pillow party planner, Suzanne

Back in the fall, I invited my ELAR teachers to an after school pajama party.  They could change into PJs, there was pizza, and we had about 45 minutes of serious synthesis.  What's not to love?!

Last year, I told myself that I wanted our campus to create a local scoring guide.  We get the scored essays back, so it takes the guess work out of it!  

About a week before, I placed an invitation and an article in teacher's boxes.  They were asked to read the article...this article- it's fantastic...and come with an ah-ha! or wondering to share.  We started with a brief discussion of the article.  

After that, I presented a copy of the rubric and we quickly discussed some characteristics of each score point.  (I might not always include this discussion, but I included non-STAAR ELAR teachers from our vertical team.  It was time well spent for us.)  I used a student friendly rubric that sticks with closely with the wording of the STAAR rubric.

From there, we split into groups.  I wrote slumber party-themed words on the corner of each rubric.  This gave me a random grouping and fit with the theme.  (You can do this with picture, a mix of words and pictures, or stickers.)  It's "random", but you can always exercise a little strategy when passing them out.  

*BEFORE THE PARTY*, I printed our PDF of released essays.  Our campus is not huge, so I had about 75 4th grade expository essays.  I chose 3 or 4 essays that were very characteristic of the score they received or that did something that I wanted to talk about. I also only worked with 2s, 4s, 6s, and 8s-- true 1s, 2s, 3s, 4s.  This eliminates some of the "high 3"/"low 3" discussion.  So walking into the party, I had a groups of essays for each score point ready.

Groups were given a stack of essays at the same score point.  I wanted them to become experts in that score point and defining characteristics that gave it away.  You could give them a mixed group of essays and it would work well too.  

At the bottom of each essay, teachers wrote a brief synopsis explaining how this essay fit within that score point and citing specific examples.  I was running short on time because I was not willing to face the firing squad for going over my time in an after school meeting, so this piece took a hit.  To be done well, I would give teachers about 20 minutes to read and write.  

We came back as a group and shared the defining characteristics of their given score point.  This conversation was brief, but I then had teachers meet in heterogeneous groups to share their take-aways from the essays they studied.  

I saw extreme benefit in this process!  I intend to do it annually with our new batches of essays.  This year felt rushed, so I want to find a time next year where we can delve deeper into the rubric and essays.  Any suggestions are welcome!

You are a campus leader (if you are reading this, yes you are...don't argue with me!), I would love to see you use and improve the ideas I shared here.  We have got to be more disciplined in reflection in order to inform our decisions and instruction.  

Something fun for the new year, let's use the hashtag #curlyclassroom to share what we're doing in our classrooms and campuses! After all, that's the whole purpose of this blog.  To share good stuff because instruction (especially reading and writing instruction) is hard!  Together we can make it a little easier!

Be sure to follow us on Twitter (@curlyclassroom) and Instagram (@thecurlyclassroom) so we can see all the awesome things you're doing!!

Happy 2018!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018 2 comments
Happy New Year, Friends!!

As a fun way to start off the new year, Lori and I came up with 18 things that you might not know about us and a few of our favorite pictures from the last year...

1. Lori and I met in 2011 while teaching 9th grade ELAR and bonded over ridiculously low mock-STAAR scores.
2. Lori is currently an instructional specialist at a middle school working with all of ELAR and 8th grade social studies, and loving mostly every minute of it! (Just keepin' it real.)
3.  Suz is currently an assistant principal at an elementary school...who would have thunk it?!
Trail of Breadcrumbs fun in Lamesa

4. Lori is a fan of the Oxford comma and firmly believes in only ONE space after a period. When she and Suz co-write a blog post, she works hard to pretend she doesn't notice. 
5.  The blog started the summer we were teaching summer school (it's a beach!) 4 days a week and writing curriculum for the next week on Fridays.  Suz started the blog one night and shared it with Lori the next day saying, "You're either going to love this or think I'm crazy."
TCTELA selfie

6. Lori is a runner and recently picked it back up again after about a two year break. Her 9th half marathon will be at the end of February, and she has ambitions for a full marathon. Maybe 2018 is the year!
7.  Suz is a bargain shopper.  Her favorite places include Walmart (with the addition of Pioneer Woman stuff, I could just live there!) and Amazon (the fact that I can have anything delivered to my door in 2 days makes me feel powerful...muhaha!).
Presenting, spending time with friends, and meeting Penny Kittle in Region 9!!
8. When we travel anywhere, we have to go to the local Walmart. The only exception was Midland. This was unfortunate...especially because we inadvertently packed MATCHING outfits to present in. 
9.  The first time Lori and I got to go and present our strategies somewhere, we got paid with a free pizza lunch and Starbuck's gift card.  Nothing was expected, so we were grateful for what we got!
10. Lori has a dog named Neville. He's bad. Things he has eaten include: a comforter, multiple table legs, stairs, and a wall. Bad. Dog.
11.  Suz's favorite day of the week is Monday.  It feels very lonely in this camp.  On Monday, the week is still fresh and new...I can do all the things.  In other words, if it doesn't happen on Monday, the likelihood of it getting done diminishes with each passing day.
Curly Classroom fun in Region 18!
12. Lori has a 10 year old daughter and a 5 year old son. Her son is a fiery red head with hazel eyes, while the rest of the family has brown hair and brown eyes. Those recessive genes came out in full force! Little rebel.
13.  In the same month, Lori and I presented 3 miles north of Mexico and 20 miles south of Oklahoma.  We love our state, man.
14. When we present, Lori has become the default tech team of one! After we arrive for set-up, Suzanne high tails it away from any plug, cord, or device! She sends Lori all the good vibes while she sets up tables like a champ. Lori has gotten really good at remaining calm when things don't work.
Sharing our favorite Bernabei strategies in Rio Grande Valley TWICE this year!!

15.  Suz's best book read in 2017: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.  This book is written by a non-profit attorney who takes on the appeals of death row inmates.  
16. We have been asked on numerous occasions if we're sisters. We've finally just started saying yes.
17.  Lori and I can make any road trip fly by with a good 90s radio sing-along!
18. One of us is VERY calm in the presence of celebrities. 
Don't think that it's all work and no play! We took a pre- back to school road trip to the Pioneer Woman's Mercantile and met her handsome hubby!! 
We hope that this is your best year yet!!